Monday, December 08, 2008

A bloody day in Kabul

The "gutters" of Kabul (yes, that narrow dirt ditch you see above is a gutter) ran red with blood today, as families across Kabul slaughtered sheep and other cattle for Eid al-Adha -- the festival of sacrifice.

The pile of blankets next to this bloody streamlet is a sleeping homeless man. He's also in the first photo above, the little hovel in the shadows by the pillar on the right.

Here I nearly stumbled into torrents of blood. The source...

... was a big cow that was still kicking when I walked through the door to have a peek. This was obviously the home of a man with money because not only did he buy a fat cow, instead of a cheaper sheep, but also because he also owned a phat Lexus SUV.

Furthermore, he had two more sheep waiting in the yard.

But the butcher was just starting on the still kicking cow. Families will buy their cattle live, keep them in the yard for a day or two, and then hire a butcher to come over with all his equipment for the halal slaughter.

Now back to part two of dog vs. sheep -- oh, poor sheep. (See dog in background.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Pup in the dumps

I found a pup!

Background: In Kabul, trash is dumped in certain known areas on the streets. For example, say there is a dumping spot on 1st street between avenues A and B, then each family within a few blocks will load a wheelbarrow of trash each day and then some young chap in the family will haul it over to that street dumping spot. Shepherds then pick through the contents of the trash bags and pull out leftover goodies for their flocks of sheep and goats to munch on before they head to the slaughter -- which is on a street aptly named Butcher Street.

My friend and I were walking to this yummy bakery when we passed one such street trash pile, in the middle of which I spotted a pathetic shivering little pup. I immediately exclaimed, "A puppy!" And then, employing increasingly pathetic whines myself, I said, "Oh, poor puppy, it's so cute! Poor little thing!" knowing full well that my friend has a mega-soft spot in his heart for dogs and would take her home. He scooped up the filthy thing and took her home. Afghans, who think dogs are dirty untouchables, stared at us along the way and commented in shock and awe, "A dog!"

My friend named her Edie -- after "Eid" (Eid al-Adha), the holiday weekend when we found her, and "Eidy," which is a gift given on said holiday. Home from the rubbish dump, she immediately got her first ever bath. She then got her first ever clean meal. Then her first ever hug. Then her first ever nap in a warm place -- her mattress was a warm jacket in the Heineken box in a supposedly dry country. Three cheers, hurrah!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

dog vs. sheep

The Muslim holiday of Eid is upon us, when families buy sheep to slaughter and to give the meat to the poor. This is the sheep my neighbor bought, and a friend's dog taking it on.

Dog loses.

She gave out a horrible yelp and limped around for a few minutes, but she then went back for some more kicking around later that evening.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Betty Crocker in Kabul

I wrote a nice simple story for the Abu-Dhabi based newspaper, The National, about two women who started a bakery that caters to expatriates in Kabul. They learned the trade from an American woman, and for their business, A Taste of Home Bakery, they use recipes straight from a 1970s Betty Crocker cookbook, seen in the foreground of the above photo. In the background, a huge batch of cookies. I've been known to eat almost a full dozen date bars within a half an hour.

They also make excellent breads.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Queen's Palace at Babur Gardens

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture has completed another incredible project, the Queen's Palace at Babur Gardens in Kabul. This complex was a bombed out skeleton of a building before the restoration started, and it was rebuilt to its former splendor. An interior shot below (with some site specific paintings by a Pakistani artist on the floor).

Traffic jam... shopping burqas

Some boys caught in a traffic jam...

with their horse-drawn cart stuck next to the cola truck and the U.N. vehicle.

One of my favorite places in Kabul is the old city bazaar. I love witnessing the shopping frenzy, which has become even crazed with the big eid holiday coming in early December. There is about one burqa-clad woman for every 50 men in this bazaar, except in the area with the pretty fabrics and notions, where the women outnumber the men.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Giving Afghans something else to think about

A friend put together a fantastic contemporary art show at the lovely Babur Gardens in Kabul. It featured works from Iranian, Pakistani and Afghan artists. When I visited, dozens of Afghans were milling around, and it occurred to me that for this brief moment in time, their minds were off the daily turmoil.

Outside in the garden, sits this jolly pomegranate vendor and a satisfied customer.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama on a Kabul TV

I was watching the tube until we lost our Kabul electricity at 11:30 p.m., then went to bed. After some anxious zzz's, I woke up at 2 a.m. when the juice kicked in again and surfed the web. Polls in the U.S. weren't closed yet. Watched CNN from home, then went to a friend's place at 4 a.m. for a gathering of a few dozen people in front of this cable TV you see above here. This image was taken when the cable was working well. Sometimes the screen went to white fuzz altogether. Sometimes we could just hear the TV talking heads; other times we squinted at the TV to try to read the electoral vote scoreboard at bottom half of the screen. "How can you read that? Wait, is that 207 or 209?" Despite the TV glitches, we shouted, pounded our fists in the air and cried with the rest of you out there.

Monday, November 03, 2008

More Karzai

Another image from Karzai's meeting with women leaders on Oct. 29.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Horse... mud huts... an Afghan camerawoman

A guy on a big pretty horse moseying down my street.

Some Kabul architecture.

An Afghan camerawoman -- one of a handful -- covering Karzai's speech before the country's women activists, advocates and leaders.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back in Afghanistan

Again after a long break from Afghanistan, I'm back in the life of little electricity and a lot of dust. I spent the first hour trying to brush dirt off my clothes and then remembered, ah, yes, after a few weeks, my clothes will all be tinted a dusty light brown from the dust in the air, and my hair will be more than a little grimy.

So it's back to evenings with generator electricity, and breakfasts in one of many beautifully-manicured Afghan rose and sunflower gardens. Summer is quickly winding down, and the autumn chill descends in the evenings.

This is Basmina in a picture that I took in May, just after writing about her in a post entitled "The Sweet Here and Now." I don't know where she is, though I'll do a little searching and let you know. Here she is in a Kabul hospital, about a week after being hit by a car, with her broken femur being "treated" by putting her leg on a traction. Some expat doctors who work at this hospital told me that those who have money get their broken bones treated immediately, but those without the funds are put on a traction and fixed later -- like my little street urchin Basmina.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Children in Prison

I took this photo in Pul-e Charkhi prison outside Kabul while reporting a story about children who live behind bars with their convicted mothers. The little one was born in Pul-e Charkhi, as are many children of women jailed for moral crimes; often they have married the man they wanted instead of the man chosen by their family. The boy holding the baby has been in prison since he was a year old. The mother of the boy on the right had divorced her first husband and remarried; her first husband then accused her of cheating on him and committing adultery.

I lent him my pen.

In the absence of playpens, unruly children were tied to bed posts to keep them out of trouble.

These girls lived with their mothers in a prison in the western Afghan city of Nangarhar, where I went to meet Rukhma, a woman I wrote a story about who was kidnapped and raped, and whose son was beaten to death before her eyes. The perpetrator was jailed for murder, and she was jailed for running away and adultery.

The girls left the women's prison at the same time that I did. They were delivering packages from their mothers to their fathers, who are in the men's lockup next door. The girl in the red has on her head her father's freshly-cleaned clothes: It appears that the traditional role of the wife washing the husband's laundry adheres even when they are incarcerated.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Band-e Amir

We took a side trip to Band-e Amir, five bright blue lakes hidden in the mountains northwest of Bamiyan. It's another bumpy ride along slivering unpaved roads in the desert. This was our first glimpse of the lakes.

The lakes are large tiered pools that spill one into the other, as can be seen in these small rivulets from the light green lake that pour into the larger bright blue one. These are the actual colors of the waters, which seem too saturated to be real.

We hiked from one side of the lakes across to the other, stopping for a brief dip in one of the shallower pools, which were extremely chilly.

One of the larger falls between two of the lakes.